Thursday, October 3, 2019
Liberalism Notes Essay Example for Free
Liberalism Notes Essay * Mainstream western philosophy. Other philosophies define themselves in relation to liberalism. * Evolution over time, though constant stress on individual freedom. Intellectual antecedents are 16th century religious reformations, 17th century scientific revolution and 18th century Enlightenment. !8th/19th century industrialisation created new class interests with commitment to reform programme so term liberalism dates from early 19th century. * Liberalism a reaction to 19th century absolutist regimes hence inextricably bound up with national self-determination. Movements for national freedom/unity associated with demands for civil/political rights and for constitutional checks on government. Contrast with Britain, where parliamentary sovereignty established in 17th century hence liberal domestic programme focused on other objectives such as parliamentary reform, religious toleration and free trade. * 19th century continental liberalism primarily a political creed and even in Britain the centrality of free markets to liberalism has been exaggerated. Victorian liberalism stood for political reform at home and support for constitutional/national movements abroad. Inspired more by religion (radical nonconformism) than by economics. Indeed from 19th century British liberalism repudiated laisser-faire and accepted need for state intervention (New Liberalism) especially in social welfare. * Decline of Liberal Party in 20th century, but ascendancy of liberal ideas. Dominant orthodoxy until late 1970s was derived from New Liberalism Keynes and Beveridge marked culmination of New Liberal thinking. Challenge to consensus came principally from an older free market version of liberalism i.e. neo-liberalism. Battle of ideas post 1945 less between left and right than between old and new liberalism. * Today liberal has different meanings in different places UK Liberals/Liberal Democrats long seen as centre/left of centre; in EU liberalism normally associated with the right; in USA a term of abuse for radical-progressive (crypto-socialist) ideas; label also associated with free market advocates (Hayek, Friedman, New Right). And almost all mainstream ideologies can be regarded as variants of liberalism. * Liberal values/ideas of vital historical importance central to development of British political tradition UNDERLYING ASSUMPTIONS AND VALUES OF LIBERALISM * Hall (1986) describes liberals as open-minded, tolerant, rational, freedom-loving people, sceptical of the claims of tradition and established authority, but strongly committed to the values of liberty, competition and individual freedom. 19th century liberalism stood for individualism in politics, civil and political rights, parliamentary government, moderate reform, limited state intervention, and a private enterprise economy. Widespread agreement over key liberal ideas/values though not over their later development and interpretation. * Key assumption is individualism. Individuals (rather than nations/races/classes) are the starting point. Society an aggregate of individuals; social behaviour explained in terms of some basic assumptions about human psychology. Some liberal thinkers saw society as an artificial creation prior state of nature where neither society nor government existed. Implication that society and government were purposefully created by individuals in pursuit of their own self-interest. So no social interests beyond the interests of individuals who make up society. * Individuals pursue their own self-interest rationally. No-one else (especially rulers) can determine the individuals own interest. Optimistic assumption that the general pursuit of rational self-interest will produce not only individual satisfaction but also social progress and the happiness of the greatest number. * Freedom the key value individuals must be free to pursue their own self-interest (Mill). Originally this had a negative interpretation i.e. importance of freedom from external constraint. In early history of liberalism this entailed firm limits on power of government to interfere with individual liberty. An important application was principle of toleration applied especially to religious belief championed by Locke (1689) Mill (1859) went on to demand full freedom of thought and expression. Later some liberals stressed freedom to enjoy certain benefits (positive liberty) thus entailing extensive state intervention to enlarge freedom (Green (1881) and Hobhouse (1911) and Berlin (1975)). Conflict between positive and negative views of freedom (and divergent implications) a major theme in the development of liberalism in 20th century. * Influence of egalitarian assumptions. So stress on equality before the law, and equal civil and political rights (though little agreement on what these should be in practice). Some liberals thus justify state provision of education et al to create greater equality of opportunity. But this commitment generally accompanied by acceptance of considerable inequality of income and wealth so in practice equality sacrificed to liberty? * Freedom entails the freedom to be unequal? But liberals deny that individual liberty is inconsistent with social justice. Self-seeking individualism, yes but equation of might and right, no. Squaring of circle attempt to make justice consistent with pursuit of rational self-interest (Rawls, 1971). Implies optimistic view of human nature and thus scope for reconciling individual and collective goals. Hence liberalism differs here from traditional conservatism (more pessimistic about human nature) and socialism (deny reconciliation can be readily achieved) SUMMARY OF THE HISTORICAL WHIG-LIBERAL TRADITION * 17th century Puritanism and Parliamentarism * Late 17th/18th century The Whig Tradition: Glorious Revolution (Locke), constitutional monarchy, government by consent, division of powers, religious toleration (Charles James Fox), oligarchy, mercantilism. * Late 18th/early 19th century Radicalism: revolution (Paine), rationalism, rights of man. * Classical liberalism (Smith) Individualism (Malthus), free markets (Ricardo), utilitarianism (Bentham), representative democracy ( James Mill). * Mid 19th/later 19th century Victorian Liberalism: Manchester liberalism (Cobden), nonconformism (Bright), free trade (Gladstone), nationalism (Mill), municipal gospel (Joseph Chamberlain). * Late 19th century/early 20th century New Liberalism (T.H.Green): social reform (Hobhouse), state intervention (Hobson), liberal imperialism (Edward Grey), national efficiency (Asquith), constitutional reform (Lloyd George). * 1920s to 1970s Decline of Liberal Party but progressive liberal consensus (Keynes, Beveridge). * Late 20th century/early 21st century Liberal revival? (Steel): European Union (Ashdown), devolution (Kennedy). THE WHIG TRADITION * Whig party in 17th century opposed royal absolutism and championed religious dissent; support for rights of parliament and for limits on royal power. Influence of Locke (1632-1704) belief in natural rights to life, liberty and property; government should rest on consent of governed, whose rebellion was justified if their rights were infringed. Need for constitutional limits on government, and division between legislative and executive powers ideas enshrined (imperfectly) in British Constitution post 1688 Glorious Revolution, and later helped to inspire French and American Revolutions. * Contradictions in Whiggism. Defence of material interests aristocrats and merchant/banking allies sought to preserve own power, property, privileges from threat of crown. No concern for massive 18th century wealth/income inequalities. And no wish to spread power beyond the propertied, so constitution they developed/defended was oligarchic/conservative. Fortunes made out of war, slave trade, India. Enclosure of land at expense of rural poor; ruthless enforcement of game laws. * Radical interpretation of Whiggism also no taxation without representation (slogan of parl. opposition to the Stuarts) also became cry of American colonies. 1776 Declaration of Independence based on Whig principles; French revolution welcomed by most Whigs Whig leader Charles James Fox defended its principles/championed civil liberties in England (until death in 1806). * Out of office, 1783-1830, so able to proclaim continued attachment to peace, retrenchment and reform unsuccessful parl. Reform bills, 1797 and 1810. Some credit claimed for abolition of slave trade, while traditional Whig demand for religious toleration reaffirmed in support for Catholic emancipation. * Defection of Old Whigs and accommodation within Foxite remnant of party of new radical generation, committed to reform, helped to preserve/reestablish a politically progressive Whig tradition that ultimately merged into liberalism. 1832 Reform Act the culmination of the Whig tradition yet underlines its essentially conservative nature very modest franchise extension (some of the propertied middle classes). Yet new urban centres gained at the expense of the shires; manufacturing/commerce at the expense of land. Whig aristocrats ultimately lost influence to urban-based business and professional middle classes (the muscle behind Victorian liberalism), though Whigs remained an important, if diminishing, element within the Liberal coalition until the late 19th century. (An antidote to those who view liberalism almost exclusively in terms of free markets neglects the Whig foundations). * The Whig-Liberal tradition is essentially a political tradition, concerned with constitutional issues/civil liberties/parl. sovereignty/ government by consent/freedom of conscience and religious observance/no taxation without representation. Whiggism served economic interests but never really an economic doctrine not about free trade/markets. Foreign trade policy in 17th/18th centuries mercantilist aimed to secure (through colonisation, Navigation Acts and war) the largest possible British share of world trade. RADICALS * Radical reformers at different times, interwoven with or opposed to Whig tradition influence on both liberalism and socialism. Radicalism a broad term, with different connotations for different periods, yet huge influence on British liberalism and 19th century Liberal party. * Paine (1737-1809) never absorbed into the Whig (later Liberal) establishment argued that once sovereignty had been transferred from the monarch to the people, there was no logical case for restricting the franchise his ideas the logical outcome of Whig slogans. Paine a liberal? (uncompromising individualism, sympathies with manfacturers, hostility to government). Or a socialist? (Blueprint for the Welfare State, support for graduated income tax, inspiration for Chartists). More impact in USA/France than in Britain seen as dangerous due to uncompromising republicanism, total opposition to hereditary principle, rejection of Christianity. * Philosopher radicals (or utilitarians) such as Bentham were in touch with progressive Whigs; Whitbread and Brougham constituted the progressive wing of the parl. party. Cobbetts radical populism harked back to pre-industrial age; Bright (Quaker manufacturer) belonged to new generation of post 1832 MPs himself displaced by new breed of radicals who took over the Liberal party in latter part of 19th century. * Radical pressure reinforced Whig commitment to parliamentary reform in 1832, and later. Association with religious dissent in 2nd half of 19th century imbued it with strong moral character fuelled demands for non-denominational state education and C of E disestablishment. Also strongly associated with the municipal gospel in local government. Fusion of Whigs and radicals with former Peelites created Liberal Party, 1859. Whigs continued to dominate Liberal Cabinets, but radicals dominated increasingly important grass roots level, especially after 1859 formation of the National Liberal Federation. * Yet it was a relatively restrained, religiously inspired, and peculiarly British strand of radicalism which eventually prevailed rather than the fiercely rationalist, republican radicalism of Paine. CLASSICAL ECONOMICS AND UTILITARIANISM * Intellectual (rather than moral) influence on Victorian liberalism of classical economists and utilitarians. Smith (1732-90), Malthus (1766-1834) and Ricardo (1772-1823) established importance of markets in the allocation/distribution of resources. And Benthams (1748-1832) utility principle was applied to a wide range of institutions/practices fiercely rationalist analysis (What use is it?). The greatest happiness of the greatest number was the only right and proper end of government. * Both stemmed from the 18th century Enlightenment; both shared the individualist/rationalist assumptions underpinning liberalism; each tended to share the implications of the others approach. Mill had a foot in both camps. * But modern neo-liberals argue it is only Smith and Hume (18th century Scottish Enlightenment) who represent the true spirit of liberalism. Bentham et al are blamed for ideas which provided a warrant for much later illiberal interventionist policy (Gray, 1986). The greatest happiness principle is seen as a breach of free market economics, since the principle of representative democracy (advocated by Mill who converted Bentham) might involve electoral pressures for interference with free market forces; moreover, neo-liberals are opposed to Benthams advocacy of bureaucracy, and thus the appointment of qualified, salaried public officials. The contradictory implications of Benthamite thinking are seen in the utilitarian-influenced Poor Law Amendment Act (1834) the able-bodied poor must enter a workhouse where their condition would be less eligible than that of the lowest independent labourer (free market incentives); at the same time theAct required a comprehensive network of administrative areas and officials, and a large degree of central control and inspection (bureaucracy). * Hence modern neo-liberals are critical of Benthams constructivist rationalism (Hayek, 1975); Gray (1986) claims that it had an inherent tendency to spawn policies of interventionist social engineering. Their refusal to recognise Bentham as a liberal involves an artificial conception of liberalism which has little in common with the Whig/Liberal tradition. * The major classical economists contributed significantly to Victorian liberalism, but their ideas were extensively vulgarised. Even Smith allowed for significant exceptions to his invisible hand. Popularisers such as Harriet Martineau, Edward Baines and Samuel Smiles reduced the principles of classical economics to laissez-faire (for governments) and self-help (for individuals). Public policy, moreover, was never consistently governed by laissez-faire look at the various Factory Acts, Public Health Acts and Acts to regulate the railways and banks passed in the early Victorian period. VICTORIAN LIBERALISM * Although the term liberal was applied from the early 19th century, the Liberal Party emerged only in the 1850s from a party realignment of Whigs, radicals and Peelite Conservatives. Gladstone (1809-98), originally a Con. follower of Peel, the embodiment of Victorian liberalism. Domination of Liberal party, and shaped in his own image; he became more radical and populist with age. Also inspired by Christian moral fervour struck chord among nonconformists. So Gladstonian liberalism a moral crusade (Vincent, 1966). * Several strands. Parliamentary reform derived from Whig tradition; advocacy of Bright, then Gladstone turned it into a populist cause. Proposals for modest franchise extension developed into radical demands for full manhood suffrage. Nonconformist strand while the 1860s parliamentary party was still overwhelmingly Anglican, the Liberals were becoming the party of the nonconformist conscience (Vincent, 1966).Nonconformist pressures spawned the National Education League (to campaign for a national, free and secular system of education), which provided the model for the National Liberal Federation (1877) which established a national organisation for he Liberal party, and tipped it decisively towards radical nonconformism. By the 1880s the PLP (and the party in the country) was predominantly nonconformist. * Support for liberal and nationalist movements in Europe, especially Italian unification, helped create Palmerstons 1859 government and kept it intact; Gladstone campaigned against the Bulgarian atrocities, bringing him out of premature retirement and into close collaboration with the nonconformists. The religious fervour behind his mission to pacify Ireland both split the party and strengthened the moral element in liberalism. * Manchester liberalism also quite influential in the party after 1859. Free trade was established as a liberal principle. Gladstone, as Chancellor, built on earlier work of Cobden and Bright (Anti Corn Law League, 1846 repeal of Corn Laws reflected transfer of power from landed to manufacturing interests) by abolishing a range of duties; Cobden negotiated Anglo-French trade treaty of 1860. But free trade did not entail laissez-faire in domestic policy Cobdens opposition to Factory Acts increasingly out of tune with the times. * Increased state intervention entailed by liberal practice major reforms in education, the army, the law and civil service, 1868-74. Third Reform Act, 1884 triumph of radical demands over Whig caution. Chamberlains Unauthorised Programme (1885) and the Newcastle Programme (1891) marked decisive shift towards radicalism. * Pace of change too fast for some Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) combined laissez-faire economics with evolutionary survival of the fittest; opposition to most forms of state intervention being introduced by Liberals at national and local level; but out of step. By contrast, Mill (1806-73) key transitional figure in evolution of liberalism. The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of any of their number is self-protection (1859) effectively a plea for minimal state intervention (Mill denounced censorship and argued for full liberty of thought and expression). Yet his commitment to individuality (and advocacy of democracy) caused him to fear the tyranny of the majority and the despotism of custom, seen as a greater threat to individuality than deliberate actions by governments. So a watershed thinker in the development of liberalism from individualism to collectivism (Gray, 1986). LIBERALISM, CAPITALISM AND DEMOCRACY * Liberalism closely associated with rise of industrial capitalism preeminently the creed of the owners of industrial/financial capital. Its political objectives focused on the enfranchisement of the new middle classes and the transfer of political power to the major manufacturing urban centres. No coincidence that Liberal party finally emerged in the 1850s when Britains industrial and commercial dominance was unchallenged, and the working classes were ununionised and unenfranchised. Even further back, protestant dissent (and especially puritanism) embodied ideas favourable to the spirit of capitalist accumulation. * But British liberalism cannot be simply derived from capitalism. The leading Whig MPs, who were still prominent in 19th century Liberal governments, were large landowners; many rank and file Liberals were not manufacturers but small shopkeepers and tradesmen; many of the working class were attached to the Liberal cause (even before the vote). In practice liberalism a coalition of class interests. Many of its causes temperance, religious disestablishment, home rule were scarcely connected with the interests of capitalism. Leading liberal thinkers Mill, Hobhouse, Keynes, Beveridge gave capitalism only qualified support. * Establishment of capitalist economy accompanied by the gradual establishment of a liberal democratic system no coincidence. Indeed, Marxist view is that rep. democracy offers best shell for capitalism so hardly surprising that party of the bourgeoisie was at forefront of parliamentary reform movement, though stopping short of support for full rep. democracy. Gray (1986, and a neo-liberal) accounts for this by arguing that unlimited democracy cannot be liberal government since it respects no domain of independence or liberty as being immune to invasion by governmental authority. * But representative democracy in early 19th century was largely untried, so not surprising liberals were apprehensive about what was a radical minority cause. Yet Paine advocated full manhood suffrage, and Mill argued for extension to women of full political rights. Once the logic of reform was accepted and liberals became committed to the theory and practice of rep. democracy their conversion was wholehearted, and seen by many (such as Chamberlain) as a justification for abandoning earlier limitations to government intervention. Herbert Samuel (1902) argued a reformed state could be entrusted with social reform Now democracy has been substituted for aristocracy as the root principle of the constitution .the State today is held worthy to be the instrument of the community in many affairs for which the State of yesterday was clearly incompetent.. Acceptance of democracy a critical step towards New Liberalism. Inexorable logic by which liberals progressed from parliamentary reform to representative democracy, to state intervention and the apparent abandonment of some of the principles associated with earlier liberalism. THE NEW LIBERALISM * Flourished in late 19th/early 20th centuries involved state economic/social reform which repudiated laissez-faire liberalism. Controversial development natural extension and refinement of the old principles OR culmination of anti-liberal elements present in the liberal tradition from the 1840s in the work of Mill. (Socialist critics dismiss NL as a forlorn attempt to revive an outmoded ideology Arblaster, 1984). * Origins of NL? Influence of Hegelian idealism? Party project to win working class support and head off rising Labour challenge? Need to modernise British economy/society and thus to compete more effectively? Or simply a rationalisation of the substantial growth in government intervention that had already occurred? * Key NL thinkers were Green, Hobson and Hobhouse. Green (1836-82) an Oxford philosopher and Hegelian; Hobson an economist who believed under-consumption to be the cause of unemployment; Hobhouse (1864-1929) a philosopher/sociologist. Common aim to redefine old liberal values in line with new political practice. So freedom, according to Green, meant a positive power or capacity and must be enjoyed by all. Hobson referred to the provision of equal opportunities for self-development so state intervention might be needed to remove obstacles. (But each enlargement of the authority and functions of the State must justify itself as an enlargement of personal liberty, interfering with individuals only in order to set free new and larger opportunities). Hobhouse justified interference with the market to secure the right to work and the right to a living wage, given the powerlessness of individual workers to secure such rights. * Liberal politicians were more cautious than the NL ideologues, though were increasingly interventionist, both at national and at local level. Locally, enthusiasm for civic improvements amounted to a municipal gospel city government seen as a test-bed for policies which could be applied nationally. Chamberlain (1836-1914) a radical Liberal mayor of Birmingham before moving to national politics (later split with Gladstone and allied with the Conservatives) campaign for the Unauthorised Programme (1895) based on LG experience hospitals, schools, museums, libraries, galleries, baths, parks, etc. Explicit rejection of laissez-faire, which was equivalent to acceptance of selfish wealth alongside poverty; accepted charge that proposed reforms were in practice socialism. Radical, reforming approach of 1895 UA echoed in 1891 Newcastle programme. At national level, little opportunity to implement the NL programme before the Liberal landslide victory of 1906. * 1906-14 Liberal Government key figures were Asquith and Lloyd George. Welfare reforms included provision of school meals and OAPs, and LGs introduction of national health and unemployment insurance (1911). LGs 1909 budget involved some modest income/wealth redistribution through the land tax and progressive income tax. And Churchills labour exchanges showed willingness to intervene in the labour market. * Key stimulus was rising challenge of labour; historians disagree over electoral appeal of state welfare advocated by leaders of organised working class, but not necessarily popular with working class voters, and frightened many middle class voters. Rosebery (briefly PM post Gladstone) thought Newcastle programme cost the party votes, though his Liberal Imperialism appealed to a chauvinistic working class, while his more modest economic/social reform programme promoted National Efficiency and appealed to progressive businessmen set on competing successfully with the rising economies of Germany, USA and Japan. DECLINE OF THE LIBERAL PARTY AND TRIUMPH OF LIBERALISM? * NL failed to prevent decline of Liberal party. WW1 undermined Liberal internationalism. Pressures towards collectivism/coercion associated with modern warfare created huge strains for Liberal individualism especially on symbolic issue of conscription. And after WW1 many Liberal causes (religious nonconformism, temperance, free trade) seemed less relevant. * Yet the disintegration of the Liberal party signifies the triumph of liberalism .. if liberalism is now partly invisible, this is because so many of its assumptions and ideals have infiltrated political practice and current awareness. (Eccleshall, 1986). Culmination of liberal thought seen in Beveridges social welfare proposals and in Keynesian economic theory provided basis of the post WW2 ideological consensus. 1942 Beveridge Report based on insurance principle, and was in keeping with spirit of LGs 1911 insurance scheme though much more comprehensive. Keynes economic theory provided for macro government intervention but allowed markets to operate freely at the micro level. Both B and K favoured private ownership of the means of production. It was precisely this kind of state intervention to promote employment and welfare provision which was favoured by earlier NLs like Green and Hobhouse. * Other liberal ideas long absorbed into British culture. 1960s changes in the law on divorce, homosexuality and abortion; some relaxation of censorship all compatible with Mills 1859 proclamation of principles of individual liberty. Later laws on equal pay, equal opportunities, and race and sex discrimination in 1970s fully consistent with liberal ideology. Thus a progressive liberal orthodoxy was established, with support from all parties. * Apparent triumph of economic/social ideas of NL complicated by revival (from 1970s onwards) of the older free market liberalism associated with classical economics. Hence modern use of term liberal requires a qualifying prefix. Hence progressive (or social) liberals advocate penal reform, civil liberties, protection of rights of minorities, freedom of expression, and open government unashamed economic interventionists. Neo-liberals (Hayek, Friedman) favour free market ideas on the right of the political spectrum, with key influence on the New Right and on Thatcherite conservatism. THE IDEAS OF MODERN LIBERALS AND LIBERAL DEMOCRATS * Modest revival in Liberal party fortunes began in 1960s; accelerated in mid 1970s; given impetus by alliance with SDP in 1983 and 1987; merger to form LDs. Now involved in coalition in Scotland and Wales, have large role in English LG, and 52 MPs after 2001 General Election. Accompanied by revival in associated political ideas. * Policies of Liberals/LDs involve continuation of NL tradition welfare capitalism, with strong stress upon individual rights. Distinctive Liberal policies included early advocacy of UK membership of EU, devolution, incomes policies, partnership in industry, electoral and other constitutional reform, and a focus on the community (linked with Liberal successes in LG). * Postwar Liberal party did little to extend/develop liberalism no startling new ideas or major thinkers. Neither electoral successes nor failures owed much to liberal ideology. Key decisions for leadership have been tactical, not ideological whether to accept Heaths coalition offer in 1974, whether to support the Labour government after 1977, how to handle the SDP breakaway from Labour in 1981, and how soon to promote a merger with the SDP. In fact, more intellectual ferment among the SDP, and their post -merger remnants. Dividing line between NL and Fabian socialism has always been thin? Hobhouse talked of liberal socialism in 1911; Hobson joined Labour after WW1. Thinner still following revisionist tendencies on the Labour Right in the 1950s, and the SDP breakaway in 1981. Hence the Liberal/SDP Alliance (and later merger) can be seen as the practical expression of an ideological convergence that was already well under way (Behrens, 1989). But ultimately it was the Liberals that swallowed the SDP, and not the other way round so the modern LDs are the clear lineal descendants of the old Liberal party. * Paradoxically, as fortunes of the Liberals/LDs have risen, LD ideas have become less distinctive. For most of post WW2 period Liberals adopted an intermediate position between Con and Lab. Briefly, in early 1980s, Liberals (and allies) seemed to offer a distinctive middle way between Thatcherism and left wing socialism. Since then Lab has reoccupied the centre ground previously vacated, leaving the LDs with little ideological space and few distinctive ideas or policies on the management of the economy, constitutional reform, Europe, defence and foreign policy the differences between the LDs and Lab are ARGUABLY more of degree than kind. * Under Ashdowns leadership, coalition with Labour seemed logical, even likely, given Blairs keenness to heal the divisions on the centre-left which had left the Cons dominant for most of the 20th century. Coalitions in LG and in the devolved bodies provide continuing impetus but sheer scale of Labs victories in 1997 and 2001 (and resistance within both parties) have weakened the project. LDs have pursued a more independent and critical line under Kennedy, without yet returning to earlier policy of equidistance between Lab and Con. * Attempts made to articulate a distinctive LD philosophy in these unpromising political circumstances by Wallace (1997), Russell (1999) and Ballard (2000). Yet terminology employed cooperation, working with others, partnership politics, community shared by New Labour and progressive Conservatives. Higher profile of LDs has drawn attention to considerable diversity of views in the party free market liberals, social liberals, conservatives with a social conscience and dissatisfied ex-Labour voters, greens, anarchists . (Ballard, 2000). Shows tolerance and inclusiveness? But not ideological coherence. The real problem is that there is now little distinctive ideological ground for the LDs to occupy, but this underlines the widespread acceptance of liberal ideas across mainstream British political parties.